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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 7 December 2005


3 Para (Trials)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 7 November, my colleague Lord Drayson, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Procurement, told the other place that he would report on the lessons learned following the "not guilty" verdict in the case of seven members and former members of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment who were charged with murder and violent disorder.

It is worth reminding the House of the very difficult, demanding and hostile operational circumstances faced by the investigators of the Royal Military Police in Iraq in May 2003. It was in the immediate aftermath of the war fighting phase where there was an almost complete absence of civil governance, law and order and where there was widespread looting and civil disobedience. There were more than 2¾ million people in Basrah and Maysan Provinces who were very different in culture, language and religious background and the majority was also highly suspicious and often hostile. The RMP were required to support the deployed force, act as the local police for the Iraqi population and commence the huge undertaking of rebuilding the Iraqi police and prison services. The operational environment and situation facing the RMP cannot be equated to that faced by a civilian police force in the UK. In the first eight months of 2003, nine members of the RMP were killed on active service in Iraq.

Against that backdrop, the Adjutant General has conducted a comprehensive review of the case and the comments of the Judge Advocate General. He has concluded that many of the issues identified have already been addressed and action taken, but there remains room for improvement. The Adjutant General has identified: the need for a review of RMP resources to meet operational demands now and in the future; better and continuous liaison between RMP investigators and the Army Prosecuting Authority; and the need to drive down delays in the system in order to ensure the timely delivery of justice. These will also be taken forward, and further improvements will be delivered through the Armed Forces Bill. In the meantime, we continue to have full confidence in the professional ability of the Royal Military Police to conduct investigations of this complexity, seriousness, and in the context of a potentially hostile environment.

The Adjutant General has also confirmed that all seven defendants—both serving and former soldiers—were afforded very comprehensive support. Each had a Unit Defending Officer who could be contacted at any time, Legal Aid (including leading and junior Counsel) and time off for those still serving to prepare for their
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court martial. Personal issues and career consequences are always assessed fairly and kept under continuous review in such cases. The assertion by one of the defendants that he had been "hung out to dry" is unfounded.

Questions were raised about the payments made to Iraqi witnesses. This was done by the Military Court Service. The procedures and the level of expenses paid were in line with the standard practices applied in the civil process in the UK. Overall it is anticipated that the total cost of the trial will be around £4 million although final legal bills have to be submitted.


Housing Act (Implementation)

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): Further to my statement to the House on 10 October 2005 on a revised programme for implementing the provisions in the Housing Act 2004, I am now in a position to announce completion of most of the first phase of the programme which includes parts 1 to 4 and 7 of the 2004 Act.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System

On 28 November, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005 No 3208) were laid before Parliament. The accompanying volumes of statutory guidance on the operation of the rating system, and on the use of the enforcement provisions in Part 1, were laid in draft at the same time, in accordance with section 9 of the Act. Part 1 applies to all residential premises and the laying of these Regulations and the draft guidance makes clear to those affected by the new provisions what is likely to be expected of them as from 6 April 2006.

Private Rented Sector Licensing

Today we have placed on ODPM's website http://www.odpm.gov.uk/housing/consult/, draft statutory instruments covering the licensing of HMOs and other private rented sector properties. These give effect to decisions announced on 10 October following extensive consultation with local authorities, managing agents, landlords and tenants.

We will take detailed comments into account before laying the final regulations at the end of January as indicated in the timetable published in October 2005. We want to make sure that the provisions are drafted in such a way that they are widely understood by those with responsibility to operate them.

The draft SIs include: The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order, The Licensing (HMOs and Other Houses) (Applications, Standards, Publication of Designation and Keeping of Registers) (England) Regulations 2005, The Selective Licensing (Specified Exemptions) (England) Order, The Housing (Interim Management Orders (Prescribed Circumstances) (England) Order and The Management of HMOs (England) Regulations.

The Government expect to lay these Orders in the week beginning 30 January 2006. They are expected to come into force on 6 April 2006.
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Empty Dwelling Management Orders

The consultation exercise on Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) closed on 14 October. In December we will publish our response to the consultation and set out our proposals for secondary legislation. We expect to lay the instruments in the week beginning 30 January 2006, and again expect these to come into force on 6 April 2006.


School Funding Settlement

The Minister for Schools (Jacqui Smith): I am announcing today the school funding settlement for 2006–07 and 2007–08. The settlement will mean that, by 2007–08, total revenue funding per pupil will have increased nationally by over £1,400 in real terms since this Government came to power, an increase of some 50 per cent. The settlement demonstrates the continuing high priority the Government give to schools.

1. On 21 July this year I announced to the House details of the new school funding arrangements which will be introduced from April 2006: in particular a ring-fenced Dedicated Schools Grant (the DSG), multi-year budgets for schools and a rationalisation of standards-related grants. The purpose of those arrangements is to guarantee delivery of the Government's commitment to increase spending on schools in every local authority area, to provide schools with the tools to take a strategic approach to their financial planning, to reduce bureaucracy, to ensure stability and to enable schools to focus on raising standards for all pupils.

2. I am announcing today the Government's decisions on the overall increase in the Dedicated Schools Grant in 2006–07, the allocation methodology to be used to distribute the DSG, and the level of the minimum funding guarantee for schools in each of those years. Details of allocations of both the DSG and specific grants to authorities and schools are being sent to local authorities today and I am placing copies in the Library of the House. 3. I announced in July that the minimum funding guarantee for schools in both 2006–07 and 2007–08 would again be set at a level which covered the average cost pressures on schools in those years, subject to a final assessment of those pressures. As in previous years, my officials have discussed the likely pressures on schools with representatives of local authorities and head teachers. These include in particular the differing pressures on primary and secondary schools respectively which result from the final stage of implementation of the National Agreement on Workforce Reform.

4. To reflect these pressures, the minimum funding guarantee for secondary and special schools will be set at 3.4 per cent. per pupil for 2006–07. The guarantee for nursery and primary schools in 2006–07 will be higher, at 4 per cent. per pupil, to reflect the higher cost of implementing workforce reform in those schools in academic year 2005–06. In 2007–08 the guarantee will be the same for all schools, at 3.7 per cent. per pupil. As in previous years, we expect the majority of schools to receive increases above the level of the minimum guarantee.
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5. The Learning and Skills Council will match the minimum funding guarantee for secondary schools in its funding rates for school sixth forms in both years.

6. The overall level of the DSG will increase by 6.4 per cent. in cash terms in 2006–07, over the baseline of local authorities' budgeted expenditure on schools in 2005–06, and by a further 6 per cent. in 2007–08. This includes funding which will be transferred out of the DSG to meet additional costs of the expanding academies programme, as pupils in academies no longer need to be funded via local authorities.

7. The guaranteed unit of funding per pupil from the DSG will increase by 6.8 per cent. on average in 2006–07, and by 6.7 per cent. on average in 2007–08. Final allocations of the DSG will depend on actual pupil numbers as at January 2006 and will be determined by May 2006. However, authorities can plan ahead with confidence now in the knowledge that they will receive a fixed sum for each of their pupils.

8. In August, my Department issued a consultation document on the method of distribution of the DSG. This proposed a modified method of distribution for 2006–07 and 2007–08 which would take the existing level of authorities' spend on the Schools Budget as the baseline, give every authority at least a 5 per cent. per pupil increase over that amount each year, and distribute the remaining grant according to criteria which would be determined by Ministers in advance of each multi-year budget period. Distribution against each of these criteria would be through a formula based on objective criteria. The key benefits of the proposed approach were that it met the concerns of those authorities which currently spend significantly in excess of their Schools Formula Spending Share (SFSS), since their spend in excess of SFSS would be consolidated into their baseline. It would also enable increases in funding to be targeted more directly at Government priorities for schools.

9. Following that consultation, we have now decided to go ahead with this approach for 2006–07 and 2007–08. A majority of respondents to the consultation supported the proposals. However, schools in a number of authorities which currently underspend against their Schools Formula Spending Share were concerned about the proposals. We have responded to their concerns by allocating in our distribution methodology additional funding specifically for schools in these authorities. As announced in July, we propose to review the operation of this methodology, consider what lessons can be learnt and work up proposals for the distribution of the DSG in the longer term, in time for the announcement of the first 3-year allocations of DSG in late 2007 following the Comprehensive Spending Review. We will announce in the new year how we propose to involve local authorities and other stakeholders in that review.

10. Overall, the minimum increase in any authority's per pupil DSG will be 6.4 per cent. in 2006–07 and 6.1 per cent. in 2007–08, and the maximum will be 9 per cent. in 2006–07 and 8.4 per cent. in 2007–08. In addition, to protect authorities with rapidly falling rolls, we will ensure that every authority receives a cash increase in its DSG of at least 4 per cent. in each year.

11. Within this overall increase we will, as announced in July, give every authority an initial basic increase of 5 per cent. per pupil in both 2006–07 and 2007–08: for
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authorities in London this will be increased to 5.1 per cent. per pupil in both years in response to the STRB's recommendation that there should be a higher increase in the London pay scales for teachers, amounting to a pressure on school budgets of 0.1 per cent.

12. Beyond this basic increase, we intend to distribute the available increase in funding in 2006–07 and 2007–08 to reflect the priority which the Government attach to meeting the costs of greater personalisation of learning, more practical learning options for 14–16 pupils, workforce reform and the increased entitlement to early years provision from 33 to 38 weeks. In relation to each of these priorities, the sums allocated in 2006–07 will be consolidated into the authority's baseline for 2007–08, and any further sums identified for 2007–08 will be on top of that amount.

13. First, as set out in the recent White Paper "Higher Standards, Better Schools For All" and announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the House on 17 October, we will earmark £335 million over the 2 years to support personalised learning, including extended opportunities outside the school day, at Key Stage 3. £120 million of the increase in the DSG will be earmarked for this purpose in 2006–07, and a further £215 million will be earmarked in 2007–08. In addition, £100 million will be earmarked for personalised learning, including extended opportunities, in primary schools in 2006–07, with a further £130 million in 2007–08. Every authority will receive an element of this funding, but it will be targeted particularly at authorities with the highest levels of deprivation and low prior attainment.

14. Secondly, we will distribute £40 million in 2006–07 and a further £70 million in 2007–08 to support the provision of more practical learning options for pupils aged 14–16 to maintain their engagement in learning. This funding will be distributed to all local authorities on the basis of pupil numbers aged 11–15.

15. Thirdly, we will distribute £70 million of the 2006–07 increase to reflect the full year cost of implementing guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment time in primary schools from September 2005. This will be distributed on the basis of primary aged pupil numbers in each authority.

16. Fourthly, we will distribute £82 million of the 2006–07 increase to meet the cost of the increased entitlement to free early years provision from 33 to 38 weeks which was announced in the 10-Year Childcare Strategy. This will be distributed on the basis of numbers of 3 and 4-year-old pupils in private, voluntary and independent settings.

17. In each of these cases we will apply the Area Cost Adjustment as used in the Local Government Finance Settlement, announced on 5 December, to the distribution of funds to reflect the higher costs of employing staff in certain areas.

18. Finally, we will distribute £30 million in 2006–07 and a further £30 million in 2007–08 to authorities whose spending on schools was below the level of their Schools Formula Spending Share (SFSS) in 2005–06. In 2006–07 each of these authorities will receive a sum equal to around a quarter of the difference between its Schools Budget for 2005–06 and its SFSS for that year.
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In 2007–08 we will give them a further quarter of the difference so that half the gap between spending and SFSS has been closed by then.

19. Although some of the increases in each year will be earmarked for particular purposes, it will be for individual local authorities in consultation with their Schools Forums to decide on the distribution of the whole of the grant locally, subject to meeting the minimum funding guarantee, and taking into account local circumstances as well as the Government's priorities. Local authorities and their forums are best placed to take decisions on the balance of priorities locally. As I announced in July we will be enhancing local decision-making under the new arrangements by giving Schools Forums new powers to approve certain proposals from their local authority. We are also strengthening the arrangements for Schools Forums' constitutions and proceedings to ensure that all partners within the school and wider educational community have confidence in the decisions that forums will be taking on their behalf. Regulations for this purpose will be laid before the House tomorrow.

20. At the same time, it is important to ensure a consistency of approach across authorities on key issues which will affect the stability and predictability of schools' budgets. I have therefore decided, following consultation, to go ahead with the proposal I announced in July to require authorities to use a single pupil count to determine their schools' budgets from 2006–07. The majority of those consulted welcomed this proposal, which will mean an end to in-year re-determinations of schools' budgets, and the consequent uncertainty about those budgets. This requirement will be incorporated into regulations which will be brought before the House soon.

21. I believe that this settlement provides the financial foundation for key Government priorities for schools and 14–19 learners. The distribution reflects an appropriate balance between delivering explicit resources to where they are needed to meet key Government commitments, and providing all authorities with headroom, once the cost of the minimum funding guarantee has been met, to target on local priorities. This will ensure that all authorities have scope to begin to respond to the conclusions of the review of deprivation funding—published today alongside the settlement—ensuring that schools in our most deprived communities and areas benefit from sufficient resource to meet the pressures and challenges they face.

22. The settlement also recognises the position of schools in authorities which in the past have chosen to spend above the level of their funding allocation—by taking their actual spending rather than their funding as the starting point for the DSG—but goes some way towards closing the gap by prioritising schools in authorities which have traditionally spent less than their funding allocation. The Government will consider whether and how to move further towards convergence around a national formula for authorities as part of the more fundamental review of the DSG in advance of 2008–09.

23. I am also publishing today details of specific grants for 2006–07 and 2007–08. As I promised in July, the funding for the School Development Grant will be
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increased by 3.4 per cent. per pupil in 2006–07 and by 3.7 per cent. per pupil in 2007–08, in line with the minimum funding guarantee for secondary schools. We will also bring a number of currently separate grants into the School Development Grant to reduce the number of different funding streams going to schools, and enable them to use these resources more flexibly. I am announcing details of a new fairer formula for the Schools Standards Grant, which from 2006–07 schools can use to support the development of extended services.

24. Finally, I can confirm that, as previously announced, the Leadership Incentive Grant (LIG) will come to an end in March 2006. However, the Government believe it is important to continue to provide specific support to our most deprived schools, and I am there announcing today arrangements for doing so within the School Development Grant, together with transitional arrangements for other schools which currently receive LIG.

25. The announcement I am making today creates a framework which combines clarity about the Government's priorities for school funding with flexibility for local authorities and Schools Forums over how they respond to those priorities. But most importantly it means that, for the first time, schools will know what their budgets will be for more than one year ahead, giving them increased stability and predictability and allowing them to plan ahead with confidence and make the best use of their resources for the benefit of all their pupils.

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